As Linden Lab continues to evolve Second Life towards a one-size-fits-all 'world'-product it encounters a wide variety of problems and issues. For example, existing users for whom the change means that the product is no longer the one they signed up for, while still not necessarily guaranteeing that it will attract potential customers. What Linden Lab has right now is a single 'world' product riding on top of a technology that is intended to be a platform that supports multiple worlds. (Technically there's three worlds, actually, the main grid, the preview grid and the teen grid, but there's barely any differentiation to be had, and no crossover at all)
One-size-fits-all doesn't just doesn't work in the mass-market. Otherwise there'd only be one kind of iPod. What the Lab really needs is a number of differentiated 'world'-products, each offering something a little different. If inter-grid teleportation is all that it promises to be, this could be the perfect solution to many of their policy woes.
And not all of those products need to be different. You can have two 'world'-products with the same basic ground-rules. Then you can actually test some of your policy changes or technical alterations, having the other world as a control-group.
Under this model, a Second Life user would initially register in a world of their choosing, but be able to hop to and operate in whichever of the available worlds they met the requirements for.
One world might be simply for corporate customers, their employees and invited guests. Another might be for age-verified users only. A third might be for paying customers only. A fourth might disallow content-creation for unpaid customers. A fifth for 'all-ages', with some mechanisms for vetting created content, and limitations on importing from other worlds. Another might operate simply as a collection of sandboxes for unfettered creation.
Unruly or disruptive users could be banned from a world where they are causing problems, rather than barring them from the service entirely. Even presently unruly users may be profitable customers in future.
Perhaps worlds could be created according to types of usage or themes (role-players, pirates, whatever). Tailor the product to the target demographic, and discover what useful lessons or features can then be applied to other worlds.
Gigs Taggart reminds us of the position of Linden Lab from December 2006:
We could never write a set of rules that would work for all people all the time, nor could we enforce them across a population that is growing so rapidly. Instead, we believe that the best way to foster communication and expression is to put power into the hands of the people by giving you better tools for local control. And that's what we've been doing for several months now. [...]
Linden Lab continued:
...[W]e cannot play the role of arbitrating personal grievances or defining behavioral standards. This is particularly important as Linden Lab becomes more international. We don't want to force a California-centric set of rules on the virtual world. Rather, we want to facilitate Residents banding together and creating their own civic centers around their unique ideals and ambitions.
It sure beats trying to manage a single gigantic gallimaufry of disparate demographics, all of which have different priorities and needs. Apparently you can have your cake and eat it too. You just need more cakes.
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